The day trip to the Cabin was a bit of a disappointment … because I hated to have to leave after only a couple of hours! The walk in was slushy with dangerously slick mud hiding under the slush. Whole chunks of trail slid out from under me in places, so I finally gave up and walked through the brushy kinnikinnick at the side of the trail. The lake is still frozen, but doesn’t look solid anymore. As the snow melts on the lake and above it, water builds up on the surface of the ice. So to my eye it looked like open water all along the “ice road” that my neighbors use, and although I was assured that it was still plenty solid for a vehicle, I’m a chicken. The trail worked just fine!
My footprints! Going back I took the slightly firmer high ground to the right of the trail
Doesn’t look great for walking to me! The ice should be completely out in another few weeks
On my way out I stopped in to accept a dinner invitation with my friends, Susie and her husband, who live up there year round. They had a real treat for me. They had come across a book written by a woman who had come to Alaska in the 1940’s with her husband and two small children. Amid the trials and tribulations of pioneer life in Anchorage, this woman found the money, time, strength and courage to build a remote cabin. My cabin as it turns out! I am so excited about reading and sharing this book that I’ve decided to relax my strict policy of not disclosing personal details that could give away my location. But in order to learn more, you’ll have to read the book! “Reluctant Pioneer” by Cecile Betts.
As we had suspected, the cabin is built from a kit. Cecile had recently divorced her first husband and acquired the property on the lake after a round of court battles over child support. The ruins of the tiny log cabin that I have long referred to as the “trapper’s cabin” on the property is actually the original dwelling that her family used when staying up there. She reported that it was too small and the roof leaked which prompted her to find the Quik Log cabin kit which she purchased for $900. She then enlisted a local man to haul it from Anchorage for her for $50. She and her children carried the logs up the hill to her building site. Over the July 4th weekend of that year a military friend helped her build the Cabin, which likely explains the military bunks that were in use there until just two years ago.
Cecile unfortunately passed away just 3 years ago in California. I hope to make contact with some of her family and already have a letter on its way to a young lady whom I believe is her grand-daughter. As I read the book, I am finding more and more names of folks that I recognize from stories my parents have told about their early lives in Alaska. One gentleman that Cecile worked with was not only the father of my dad’s best friend but he took out my tonsils when I was 11 years old!
I am so excited to have come into this bit of history of a place that I hold so dear to my heart. I promise to share more as I learn more.
So, as I said before, the Cabin is only 13 feet square. Picture if you will a medium sized bedroom and fill it with the following: a double bed, a set of bunk beds, a small dining table and benches, a wood stove, a tiny counter supporting a two-burner propane camp stove, and a series of crates and wooden boxes that serve as cupboards. Don’t forget a box for firewood and a wooden trunk that hold tools. You’re right…there is no room to move! But wait, there’s more…add a family of four (and various pets) together with gear and food for a 10 day stay, Dad’s guitar, coats and raingear, a rifle, games and books for rainy days…whew! When I think of us staying there as a young family, I am amazed. Even when I’m there by myself, I sometimes feel a bit claustrophobic and restless if the weather is inclement.
Hand made dining table and "kitchen"
You may have noticed the lack of plumbing mentioned in the above paragraph. We have a nice little outhouse built by my dad a couple of hundred feet behind the Cabin itself. For bathing, we have a large metal washtub – just like real pioneers! Mom and I washed each other’s hair down by the lake shore with a bucket and a dipper and a bit of courage for that first dipperful of icy water! More recently showers can be had (quickly!) on a little cinderblock platform behind the cabin. Water heated over the stove is poured into a heavy duty camp-shower bag with a shower head attached. This is then hung off a hook on the eaves over the shower area. Washing dishes is less complicated. Hauling water up from the lake is the most cumbersome part of the whole chore. Hand-washing is done with a small basin of filtered water that lives in a corner of the deck and is changed frequently as the water becomes cloudy with soap.
Our old fashioned wash tub has to live outside due to lack of space
No electricity is no problem. Kerosene lamps, a Coleman propane lamp and a candle lantern provide lighting. Dad provided music on his guitar in the evenings. Books and games and family were all the entertainment we needed indoors. Outdoors, if it wasn’t pouring rain, there were – and are – trails all over the mountain for exploring, the boat for access to trails on the far side or at the end of the lake, blueberry patches for picking in the fall, firewood to be gathered and cut, water to be hauled up from the lake for washing or potable water to be laboriously gathered from a tiny spring several hundred yards down the lake.
Cast Iron pot belly stove provides heat, but we cook with propane. Note the counter "support"
While I am nostalgic about the past trips and the camping out lifestyle we enjoyed, I have already begun tweaking things for convenience. I have a “Hot Water on Demand” that will provide a lovely new way to take showers. I have a composting toilet picked out and soon to be on its way.
And of course a new cabin someday…